Summer silliness is usually confined to trashy novels for the beach or airplane, the plots of Hollywood blockbusters and the month of August — when media outlets are starved for stories as government leaders worldwide go on vacation. This year, the season has come a little early and while some of the stories are worth a snicker or two, others are nothing to laugh about at all — as this week’s headlines illustrate.
First to trigger the silliness meter was the head of Cathay General Hospital’s pediatric department, who is concerned that watching too many popular “idol dramas” is triggering the onset of early puberty in young girls. The TV shows’ passionate scenes could excite the hypothalamus, causing the secretion of female hormones in the girls and eventually leading to the early appearance of secondary sex characteristics, the doctor warned.
Although overt sexuality has dramatically increased in popular culture in recent decades — from music lyrics and videos to movies, advertising and clothing — TV shows filled with good-looking young people are nothing new and neither is young girls or teenagers going gaga over a singer or an actor.
It’s not exposing youngsters to the “passionate scenes” that is the problem with these idol dramas, it is the exposure to bad dialogue, poor acting and the reinforcement of gender and class stereotypes that parents should be worried about.
Next on the silliness meter was the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) getting all shirty over the latest publicity stunt by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) campaign office — the release of an “I am a R.O.C.er” T-shirt. One DPP spokesperson said national identity was not a game and voiced concern that foreigners might confuse the abbreviation “ROC” — meant to signify the Republic of China — with other republics that begin with a “C,” such as Croatia, Cuba or Chad.
Yes, it’s election time, even if the campaign season hasn’t officially begun. Yes, we can expect the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and DPP to nitpick at each other till hell freezes over — and probably after that as well — but to fuss over T-shirts at a time when the economy is tanking? Not to mention that anyone who could mistake a Taiwanese wearing an “I am a R.O.C.er” T-shirt as being from the republics of Cyprus, Cameroon or any other “C” probably wouldn’t be able to find Taiwan on a map in the first place.
And finally, moving the silliness meter all the way into farce has been the nitpicking in Washington as the world’s biggest economy teeters on the brink. The grandstanding on how to prevent the US government from defaulting on its sovereign debt obligations has been nothing short of astounding. The best “compromise” the Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill appear able to achieve is a short-term measure that would simply postpone the debate until early next year — thereby ensuring it dominates the US presidential election campaign (as if it wouldn’t anyway).
Perhaps the problem is that the numbers are so big — the US debt ceiling stands at US$14.3 trillion — or perhaps it’s a case of short-term memory loss, with few Republican lawmakers willing to accept that voting for two massive tax cuts and the funding of two wars helped move the US from a US$3 trillion surplus in 1998 to the situation it is in today. However, the repercussions of this game of brinkmanship extend far beyond the US.
While much of the world may look on such debate — if it can be called that — with morbid fascination, for those of us in Taiwan such machinations and willingness to destroy an economy for the sake of political ambition and correctness are, sadly, nothing new. The KMT has been doing that ever since the DPP won the 2000 presidential election, and that is nothing to laugh about.
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